Marketing is what you do
Branding is what you are
Have you ever had a Facebook post hit your news feed and known exactly who it was from just from the design elements?
That is branding.
Have you ever come across an Instagram feed that left you feeling relaxed and inspired?
Only to see the next feed as a mish mash of colours and felt blah?
That’s the difference that a well-executed style guide can have on your clients.
what is a style guide?
A brand style guide is a holistic set of standards that defines your business branding. It becomes your Rule Book for all things when communicating your brand. A style guide will contain the requirements for writing and designing content.
why use a style guide?
Having a completed style guide for your business branding ensures consistency of your message across all areas of your business. This means that no matter how, when or where a customer experiences your brand, they are experiencing the same underlying traits. It’s this consistency across every touch-point that helps build a brand and brand loyalty.
A well thought out guide puts your reader first and makes your content recognisable, and that develops a more personal connection. All to often a small business owner will use design elements that they like and end up being in direct conflict with their ideal clients likes and preferences. Just because it looks fancy doesn’t mean it will convey the right message.
It’s this consistent message that will build trust.
In many cases your designer may have provided you with a style guide at the time of creating your logo.
If not, creating a word or google document with the following items clarified will help when creating visual media in your business.
The essential elements of a style guide are: –
Did you know that colour increases brand recognition by 80%?
You will no doubt have your own experiences where you have recognised a brand simply by its colours.
When putting together your own brand style guide consider choosing 3-5 colours for your colour palette. The more colours you use, the harder it is to balance them.
Have on hand the hex, CMYK and RGB codes as well as pantone numbers if available. It’s this information that comes in handy when using different mediums.
You could even consider using primary and secondary palettes.
There are plenty of colour generators online, but Canva has some great suggestions https://www.canva.com/colors/
When finalising your style guide try including some photographic examples to help confirm the overall expectations.
TIP: Don’t make it distracting.
Choose 1 –2 fonts for your brand. Identify when particular weights (Bold, Thin, Extra Bold, Italics) are to be used.
Fonts may be used on your website as well as any other graphics that your business publishes across socials and the interweb.
While H1 titles are important to Google, they are also important to your readers. Choosing a font that is readable as well as relatable can provide an additional touchpoint to connect with your potential clients.
It is recommended that a complimentary font is chosen as it provides variety when seeing and reading your information.
If you are using different software for creating your visuals, eg word and Canva, you may need to choose a lookalike font. Keep in mind that many programs will now permit the uploading of your particular fonts into their software.
As a small business owner you are going to be creating a heap of graphics for social media that are text based, eg quotes, keep in mind that while swirly handwritten fonts may be cute they are difficult to read and the last thing you want is people scrolling by because they can’t read your message.
TIP: Don’t make it confusing.
Having your logo created in both colour and black and white, and in various sizing’s means that there will be no distortion of the images when publishing. There will be occasions when you will use a B&W version of your logo rather than just a greyscale copy of your colour logo. In your guide include examples of proper uses. And if you have older versions, clearly mark them as “Don’t’ Use”.
TIP: Don’t make it difficult.
This is not something that is included in a traditional style guide but can make a big difference to ensuring your message is communicated consistently.
Like keywords for SEO, creating specific language or words that can and cannot be used across your copy will define what your business stands for.
This may also include the use of emojis and gifs.
TIP: Don’t make it complicated.
Do you want your brand recognised as fun and quirky? Maybe you are wanting to project a very professional image. Incorporating your core values and personality as part of a comprehensive style guide takes the guess work out of delivering a consistent message on and offline. Including this information rounds out your style guide.
TIP: Don’t make it unapproachable.
How does that look online?
What not to do, for example, using pale pink colours with a curly script that includes language such as hip hop references for a defined target market of 40-50 year old males is not a good branding or marketing decision even if, as the brand owner that is your preference. The same applies for using dark browns and blues with block font and includes fishing references for 14-16 year old girls. In both these cases there may be ideal niche audiences but for the main, these elements are all confusing and complicated.
when to use a style guide?
As a small business owner you have many things to do each day, so having these clear guidelines will make it so much easier to create content for your social media presence, even on the fly. Consistency results in a cohesive brand experience that most consumers look for, every time they interact with your business.
A style guide is also important for team members or contractors. If you choose to do any offline marketing eg print, these guidelines provide the consistency that is necessary.
Of course these aspects could be further developed, however as a minimum your message will be delivered, communicated and recognised regardless of the platform or medium.
Use this template in Canva to create your own style guide.
Once completed keep a copy of this file on your desktop for quick reference.
A brand style guide is a key document for content creators so a consistent message is communicated to your audience. A style guide serves as a catalogue of all the important elements that make up the visual identity of your brand.
It also includes a list of do’s and don’ts to make sure your business delivers the same message, always, even when the message is coming from someone other than you the business owner.
If you would like assistance in reviewing or creating a workable style guide for your small business contact us for a custom strategy session.